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Last weekwe got information that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to fight Anthony Smith. The UFC created that struggle official on the weekend, along with the March 2 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada is currently a go with the GOAT looking to defend his title in the main event.
In addition to the confirmation of Jones vs. Smith, a couple other struggles for UFC 235 were also revealed over the weekend, and I will give my initial thoughts on these new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
UFC 235 vs. Marlon Vera, frankie Saenz Because of an injury to Thomas Almeida, veteran Frankie Saenz is stepping up on short notice to fight the slumping Marlon Vera in a bantamweight bout at UFC 235. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the information. Saenz (13-5) is 5-2 overall from the UFC and is coming from back-end choice wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one point it looked like he may get cut by the UFC after suffering a three-fight losing skid, but he has bounced back nicely since then. At age 38, this is the last opportunity he’s got to make a title run.
Vera (12-5-1) is just 6-4-1 from the UFC but he has fought a high level of competition within the Octagon and his record does not do justice to the kind of fighter he is. Vera is coming off of back-to-back stoppage wins Guido Cannetti and Wuliji Buren and at age 26 is beginning to really come into his own as a fighter. No doubt Vera is going to be seeking to keep this fight with Saenz around the feet while Saenz will be looking for the takedown. Though Saenz is a tricky veteran and will likely make this fight more aggressive than the lineup will suggest, it is hard to go from the younger Vera and I expect him to be a big favorite to get the win.
Charles Byrd vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, UFC 235
Middleweights Charles Byrd and Edmen Shahbazyan are set to clash at UFC 235 as well. This battle is official according to the UFC. Byrd (10-5) had an excellent UFC debut last spring when he submitted John Phillips in the first round at UFC Fight Night 127. He was a betting favorite because of his next battle against Darren Stewart at UFC 228, but following a solid first round that he faded badly and was brutally knocked out. At age 35, Byrd looks to be a gatekeeper rather than a late-blooming contender that some believed he might be after his successful stint on the Contender Series.
Shahbazyan (8-0) was undefeated heading to his UFC debut with all of his wins coming by first-round knockout, but fought in a split decision win on the aforementioned Stewart. He’d get the nod and at age 21 must learn a lot from that fight, but he showed a great deal of holes against Stewart a veteran like Byrd could exploit. I’d still have to favor Shahbazyan somewhat just because of the age gap and the knockout energy, but I’ve a feeling that this fight will be more aggressive than most want to believe.
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